Volkswagen of America is the fourth major manufacturer in as many years to pick a certified “megasite” in the Tennessee Valley for a new plant.
The VW decision to build a $1 billion car assembly plant at the Enterprise South Industrial Park will swell the total investment in TVA-certified megasites to nearly $4 billion in the past four years alone. Collectively, the projects announced on major industrial sites in Chattanooga and the Mississippi towns of Tupelo and Columbus are projected to directly add more than 5,000 jobs and indirectly create more than 20,000 jobs.
John Bradley, vice president of economic development at the Tennessee Valley Authority, said Thursday the level of investment and job creation in the Valley has grown since the federal utility hired a site selection firm to pre-qualify the readiness of major industrial sites for automotive and other major manufacturers.
“It has really paid off and exceeded our initial expectations,” he said. “I think this reconfirms that doing your homework and due diligence takes some of the risk off the table and that’s critical for companies making decisions.”
Indeed, two of the final sites considered by Volkswagen for its auto assembly plant were TVA-certified megasites.
Tom Hill, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Authority, said VW considered a megasite along Interstate 65 and later focused on a nearby site annexed into Huntsville, Ala.
“We’re over our defeat yesterday and we’re moving on,” he said Thursday. “We have a great megasite ready to be developed and I’m confident we will eventually get a major business on that property.”
In March 2004, TVA contracted with McCallum Sweeney Consulting in Greenville, S.C., to develop a site certification process for potential automotive assembly or manufacturing operations. The result was the creation of the Megasite Certification Program that ultimately identified nine sites in the Tennessee Valley each with at least 1,000 acres property ready with supporting rail and highway access.
Since then, nearly half of the nine megasites have landed major businesses, including two of the biggest new investments in the United States in the past two years. One megasite in Crockett County withdrew from the program last year, according to Jeannette Goldsmith, a principal for McCallum Sweeney.
“Volkswagen’s decision this week verifies what we have been preaching,” she said. “Those communities that get their sites ready are going to win.”